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  • Kate Miller

23% to Clean Air and Healthy People

It has been fifty-one years since the most outstanding actionable achievement to combat air pollution. The Clean Air Act (CAA) in 1970 was signed into law by Richard Nixon. This federal regulation addresses all types of emissions and sets the standards for air quality, and so far, it has reduced 77 percent of the nation's air pollution. Today we will talk about the 23 percent that is yet to be eradicated and how we can start to do it together.

Air pollution is rarely spoken of even when it constitutes around 7 million premature deaths per year worldwide. It is also known to disproportionately affect the poor and people of color who live in areas where the air quality is awful. One reason for this is the now prohibited redlining practices. Other causes are bias zoning, gentrification, and even situations of homelessness; Situations where people have little to no access to clean cooking fuels, who must burn wood, dung, and sometimes even plastic to stay warm and cook. Moreover, the emissions from industry, agriculture, and cars pollute our cities and damage our health.

According to Dean Schraufnagel, a pulmonary medicine professor at the University of Illinois, "dirty air affects nearly all the body's essential systems. It may cause about 20 percent of strokes and coronary artery disease deaths, triggering heart attacks and arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, and high blood pressure. In addition, it's linked to lung, bladder, colon, kidney, and stomach cancers and childhood leukemia; It harms kids' cognitive development and raises older people's risk of contracting dementia or dying of Parkinson's." In other words, air pollution is an invisible killer.

The CAA's approach creates regulations to address the problem with automobile makers, chemical companies, etc. But, as citizens, we must also do our part to reduce that 23 percent. When possible, individual actions such as walking and biking help, but the most important of all is No-Idling.


According to the U.S Department of Energy, idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and creates more carbon emissions than turning off and restarting your engine. Understanding this and the fact that idling is inevitable in some situations (like a traffic jam) led to the Start-Stop technologies that have been demonstrated to save around 3-10% of fuel. Most cars and trucks in the United States and Europe have this technology, especially those non-hybrid cars manufactured after 2012 and electric vehicles that no longer need to worry about emissions. However, we need to take it to the next level and turn off our engines, especially when a train is crossing, when shopping, stopping for a beverage, at the Post Office, and mimic the new technology in these vehicles and save even more.

We want to encourage Kalamazoo to become a No-Idle community. We may not be a city with high traffic concentrations, but people have long commutes, and idling is unnecessary. This simple action will expand our impact and help eradicate the missing 23 percent. It is the 100 percent that will give our children a breathable life.

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